We’ve been lucky enough to test ride the GT Grade Alloy X Gravel Bike – 2016 SRAM Rival Hydraulic for a few months now, and we can definitely say that it is one of the most versatile bikes in our quiver. We rode the Grade Alloy X on pavement, gravel, singletrack, fire road, and pretty much anywhere we could get on 2 wheels with only a few minor tweaks to the original spec.
But straight out of the box, the Grade Alloy X is a capable machine. Utilizing an updated version of GT’s famed triple triangle design, the Grade Alloy X frame is optimized for on- and off-road adventure. The frame is made with double butted, hydroformed alloy for a relatively lightweight, and definitely durable bike – just check the sizing carefully, as this is more of a traditional frame design, instead of a compact geometry. The tapered headtube helps stiffen up the tall front end, and the standard threaded bottom bracket makes servicing easy. The full carbon fiber fork is light and features a 15mm through axle for improved rigidity.
Component-wise, shifting and braking are handled by SRAM’s Rival1 11-speed hydraulic levers, which not only deliver flawless shifting but powerful, well-modulated braking as well. The 1×11 drivetrain system not only simplifies the drivetrain, but also cuts down on weight and mechanical complexity, making it perfect for all-surface riding. Braking is handled by SRAM Rival1 hydraulic road disc brakes with 160mm rotors.
The durable alloy wheels laced to Formula 6 hubs (with a 15mm thru-axle front hub and 135mm quick-release rear) gave us no issues, but this is a spot where an upgrade could save some weight. A Fizik Aliante saddle and durable alloy parts from GT fill out the part spec, but we swapped out the stem, seatpost and saddle for our personal comfort (to a slightly shorter stem, and a carbon seatpost for a little extra forgiveness).
On the road
We tested the GT Grade Alloy X Gravel Bike on the road in fast group rides, on solo jaunts, and even through some wintry slush. It’s a very stable handling ride, and the 40 tooth front chainring matched to an 11-28 cassette lets you hang in there on most rides, although when the road gets steep, you’ll be hunting for a few easier gears. But this can be alleviated by switching to an 11-32 cassette, which we ended up preferring for most terrain, on- or off-road. And while you are switching out the cassette, you may as well switch the tires to something slicker than the cyclocross-inspired Clement MXP 700×33 knobbies that come stock on the Grade Alloy X. We went with a 700×35 touring type tire, which is a great option if you are going to be riding mostly on roads or smooth trails.
On the trails
The great part about the Grade Alloy X is that the fun doesn’t end where the pavement stops. Calling the Grade Alloy X only a ‘gravel bike’ doesn’t do it justice for where you can take this machine. Sure, we rode the bike on dirt roads and fire roads, but we also took detours down rugged and rocky singletrack – even joining a mountain bike ride with Hans Rey! The stable handling and surefooted nature of the bike had us trying all kinds of terrain, aided by the extra damping from the carbon fork. You’re not going to mistake this for a mountain bike, but it more than held its own off-road.
We also got to test ride the GT Grade Alloy Sora Women’s Gravel Bike – 2016 – it sports the same frame and fork as the Grade Alloy X, but it is specced with a Shimano Sora drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes, and slick tires instead of knobbies.
Ready for anything
The entire family of GT Grade bikes is truly ready for anything you can throw their way. In addition to the Grade Alloy X, we earlier wrote up our experiences riding the GT Grade Carbon 105 Gravel Bike – 2016 – you can’t go wrong with either of these all-road options. Updated 2017 GT Grade models are arriving every day, but there are still limited numbers of the 2016 GT Grade models that we tested available, so don’t pass up the chance to go rogue!